Times, they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan said, and for me that means the time has come to finally start doing some interviews to publicise my books. So this week (for a laugh) I interview myself about doing interviews. Postmodern or what?
Me and my celebrity ‘mates’ by Bev Jones, an interview with Bev Jones.
Bev A – So Bev, this week Indie Author Land have been kind enough to interview you on their webpage here at bit.ly/IndieAL20 (@IndieAuthorLand, IndieAuthorland.com).You used to be a journalist at The Western Mail and then the BBC– is it weird being the interviewee now and not the one asking rude and nosy questions?
Bev B – Yes Bev, it is strange now that the tables have turned on me. But a good interview, especially a nice feature, should be like a chat not an interrogation!
Bev A – Really? So what’s the secret of a good interview, smarty-pants?
Bev B – Well, as a journalist the idea was not just to ask someone a load of questions but to ask questions that get people to open up. Then you follow the conversation where it leads to find the hidden bits of info that make that person and their experiences stand out. It’s called finding ‘the line’, ie finding the best ‘story’ and a hook to hang it on.
Bev A – Well, you don’t seem to have a problem with talking about yourself. I must be good at this interview lark!
Bev B – It’s actually a ‘no-no’ to be sarky and condescending during the interview (that goes for the interviewer and the interviewee.)
Bev A – Okay, so what’s your ‘line’ then?
Bev B – That depends who’s writing about me. For instance, I was recently featured in the local paper I used to work for, The Rhondda Leader. Their line is ‘Writer Beverley lands book deal’ and it says I’m due to become an international novelist. I may also have shamelessly name- dropped to them that I share an agent with the man who wrote the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire, Vikas Swarup. This ‘celebrity’ connection has little to do with me, or the success or otherwise, of my book, of course, but it’s a ‘good line’ so I’m gonna keep plugging it!
If I could get Danny Boyle on to adapting one of my books like he did Slumdog then it’d be a different story. But I think he’s lying in a darkened room recovering from the Olympic opening ceremony watching DVDs of Shallow Grave.
Bev A – Okay, more obvious namedropping here. During your days as a reporter did you ever interview anyone famous?
Bev B. Yes, sort of! Rhys Ifans, Welsh actor of Notting Hill and TwinTown fame as well as numerous other movies. The interview lasted about 70 seconds at the launch of one of his films in Cardiff, way back – 20 seconds of which was him putting me in a headlock. He was very excitable and he’s a big fella – but he gave me a nice quote when he finally let me go. That’s my big claim to fame.
Bev A – Anyone else?
Bev B – Lots of UK TV entertainment folk like orange-hued antiques guru David Dickinson from BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Laurence ‘your curtains are abysmal, darling’ Llewelyn-Bowen interior designer from Changing Rooms – neither of whom put me in a headlock but did give me tea and biscuits – lovely guys!
Bev A – Any ‘writers’?
Bev B – Yes, when I was a trainee I interviewed Rachel Tresize, from Rhondda near where I grew up. She had published her first book In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. She was shy. I was jealous. She went on to win the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize for her book Fresh Apples. I did not… bugger!
Bev A -Tell us about your writing, then. Where do your ideas come from? Are you methodical, etc?
Bev B – Leave it out! That’ll just make people doze off (besides, I’ve been tagged on the blog hop by the lovely Renata F Barcelos ( http://bit.ly/RF5Pjn @RenataFBarcelos) for next week – more about writing stuff then.) Next question!
Bev A – You’re bit hostile! I might put the ‘brain-phone’ down on you. Did anyone ever hang up or walk out on you during an interview?
Bev B – Spoon-bending mentalist Uri Gellar put the phone down on me once. He was doing a show at the Grand Pavilion in Swansea but my editor wanted to know about his friendship with Michael Jackson (it was round the time of the allegations against MJ). I did as I was told and every time he tried to tell me about his show I slipped in a question about his mate Michael. The he hung up – I probably deserved it!
Bev A – Sounds like you’re not best placed to give interview advice. Actually the title of this post is misleading too. You don’t have any real celebrity mates, do you!
Bev B – Are you an idiot? The headline doesn’t have to bear much relation to the piece – don’t you read the papers!
Bev A – Okay. So in the same vein, in your first novel Telling Stories – does someone actually tell stories?
Bev B – Yes – Lizzy, the narrator. But she’s a journalist so you might want to take what she says with a pinch of salt
Bev A – And in Holiday Money does anyone pop into the Thompson travel shop for 400 quid’s worth of Euros?
Bev B – No.
Bev A – Okay, here’s the shameless plug bit at the end. If people are a glutton for punishment where can they find your books?
Bev B – Telling Stories and Holiday Money are available on Amazon US and UK http://amzn.to/Pesgrl and lots of online retailers like barnesandnoble.com. Also if you bump into my mum she has a supply and is shifting a fair few!
Bev A – Well, better fly – got a deadline!
Bev B – Me too!
Bev’s idiot guide to interviews
Don’t just ask pre-arranged questions – listen to the responses and build on them.
Find a fresh line/hook to hang your story on by finding something unique to that person or their work – then have a bit of fun!
Paint a picture of the person but don’t be afraid to edit out the boring bits – they’ll thank you in the long run!
Think of some nice sound-bites or snippets that make you stand out and shoe-horn them into the answers at every opportunity!
Sell yourself but don’t pretend to be something you’re not – try to focus on the things that make you you rather than what you think a ‘writer’ should be.
BUT – Don’t be too honest – eg never bitch about other authors’ work!
Have a bit of a laugh! People want to read an interview with someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, someone they think they’d like to chat to in the pub/bus queue.